Saturday, 30 November 2013

Happy St Andrews Day

Well I thought it would be good to do another wee sketch of David Livingstone for his bi-centenary on this St Andrews Day but while I did this last night unbeknown to me sad events were playing out in Glasgow, so I think any celebrations will be somewhat tempered.
Our thoughts with all who are affected.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Thought Bubble Moments!

Thought Bubble 2013 is that-a-way!
Gosh that was quick, the weekend's Thought Bubble festival in Leeds brought Accent UK's long year of comic shows to an end and was a suitably good way to wind down 2013.

Given the problems the organisers had with fulfilling exhibitor table requests, the addition of a new hall in vacant shopping units gave everyone who wanted to, the opportunity to exhibit, for which the organisers deserve thanks in responding to the unprecedented demand. However the question was always going to be whether this demand would be matched in increased attendance and spend to warrant the extra investment?
Thought Bubble 13 Crowd

On this point, and purely on our numbers and observations, I would say the jury's still out. Its hard to say but would reckon that attendance was pretty similar to previous years which of course meant with even more exhibitors, people's spend was spread even further. Its not surprising therefore that our own sales were down from 2012, but in fairness we had a host of new books last year which helped boost our sales to a record tally. With only a couple of new things this time we expected a modest showing which is exactly what we had, although we still comfortably beat 2011's sales, so it's not all bad.

Most exhibitors I spoke to were similarly 'okay' with things with no-one saying they had done amazingly good or bad, just 'okay' and in fairness for a cold November weekend at the end of a busy convention year that's not too bad really, considering everything else the show had. 

Colin eagerly mans the AUK table - note Dave's lego boxset centrepiece!

A close up of Dave's lego set of Accent UK comic characters - can you find them all?

And that's the key thing, much like the recent Lakes event, its not all about the numbers, its as much about the community and social aspect as you catch up with familiar faces and discover new works, this combined with brisk early sales helped remind us that despite the table booking problems, Thought Bubble is still the place to go for the best mix of professionals, independent and small press creators and arguably the UK's best comic show in an increasingly crowded market.

That said, I don't envy the organiser's job in planning for next year when they'll be keen not to repeat the online exhibitor lottery but presumably they won't have the option of those vacant shop units?
Anyway back to this year and Dave and I had a blast in catching up with old friends and chatting to new and repeat readers of our books. Once again Gary Crutchley was able to join us and work his sales patter to ensure that his and Dave's Westernoir series be the top seller with the latest book 3 outselling everything else by a good margin!

Dave and Gary happy with Westernoir's Thought Bubble reception

Sadly Dave and I again failed to see any of the programmed talks and events - thats' none in the 7 years we've attended which is a shame especially as we'd greatly enjoyed the talks we caught at The Lakes recently. Mind you with a show the size as this you can't hope to see everything and certainly that was something I heard people repeat time and time again that it was 'too big' and they couldn't absorb it let alone buy everything they liked as there was just 'too much'!
Thom Ferrier (Ian Williams) & Me catch up
During my little escapes from the table I did manage to track down a few of the books I was looking for and a few that I'd not heard of before - see my 'haul' pic below - including an enjoyable book previously unknown to me, 'The IT Girl' by Jessica Martin based on the silent movie actress, Clara Bow. Its well executed and despite being a little short is a promising debut from the impressively enthusiastic Jessica, who has only recently entered the comics field after a varied and interesting show biz career!

Other highlights was again meeting Frederik Peeters this time for his new sci-fi series Aama from Self Made Hero which I am looking forward to reading especially after his previous excellent Pachyderme book which I had a lively discussion with Gary Spencer Millidge about as we tried to second guess its meanings and imagery - great fun!
Gary Spencer Millidge & GM Jordan strike a Thoughtful pose!

It was discussions like that throughout the show with numerous people - too many to list - that makes Thought Bubble special as most comics people will be there and its a great chance to catch up and chew the fat and with the show being so late in the calendar there's very much an end of term feel to it as you say your goodbyes and reflect on the close of another convention season.
Neil Cameron during his 'Draw an Awesome Robot' workshop
One final bit of very welcome news was when old comics pal, Neil Cameron told me that our very good friend and very deserving talent, Garen Ewing had won the British Comic Award for Best Young People's Comic for his Complete Rainbow Orchid book! Great stuff, we're all delighted for you Garen and will enjoy seeing you squirm with embarrassment with all the plaudits coming your way! You can read Garen's own report here and here's the full list of the 2013 award winners.
I'll let Dave say more about Thought Bubble at the main Accent UK blog but for me, after a fairly indifferent expectation about the show, I was pleasantly surprised and reminded how special Thought Bubble really is and I sincerely hope they can come up with a workable solution to its exhibitor popularity so no-one who wants to be there misses out, lets see what they come up with?

The 2013 TB haul and I still missed out on a couple of books!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Loading up for Thought Bubble!

Excellent timing sees another great review of Gary and Dave's latest WesterNoir issue by Jeremy Briggs at the Down The Tubes site here with this fantastic concluding paragraph;

WesterNoir is one of the best small press series being published at the moment and Book Three maintains the high standards of the previous two while not sticking to any plot formula. The stand-alone nature of the stories means that new readers could read this one as easily as any of the other books in the series but, with their combination of strong writing and impressive art, it is worth seeking them all out.

So if that doesn't make you want to mosey on down to the Thought Bubble Comics Festival in Leeds this weekend then have a wee gander at a sample of the sketches which Gary has produced for the special limited sketch and print WesterNoir packs!

The Accent UK posse will be at Table 14 within the main New Dock Hall sandwiched in between Image Comics and Ian Edginton with our full range of books and goodies - hopefully see you there!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Moments on the Radio!


Okay forgive me for being a wee bit 'starstruck' as earlier today I had my name read out on BBC Radio 2 and a question I'd raised asked of author Joseph Boyden who was being interviewed about his new book The Orenda!
Hey okay in the scheme of things its pretty minor but I'm pretty chuffed to say the least and impressed that the 'interactiveness' of such things actually works!
I'd been listening to the Simon Mayo show early evening when my ears pricked up during his Book Club feature when the author interviewed mentioned the Iroquois and Huron tribes of Southern Canada and their interaction with the Jesuit priests being the setting of his new novel. While no expert, I'd an interest and awareness of this subject after visiting a reconstruction of a site founded by the Jesuits during our trip to Canada last year. I listened intently and became more interested in the story being described but I'd missed the author's name and wasn't sure of the book's title so logged on to the BBC Radio 2 website and found that I was listening to Joseph Boyden describing his new novel, The Orenda.
I then noticed the BBC's invitation to 'interact' with the programme by texting or emailing the presenters so while thinking 'yeah right' I bashed off a short question name checking the Sainte-Marie among the Huron site we'd visited and asked if the author had drawn on its location at all? Well you can imagine my complete shock and surprise when mere moments later, Simon Mayo name checked me and read out my question! Even more pleasing was that the author was not only familiar with the location but that it had indeed featured in his thinking as the story's "ground zero" setting - gulp!
You can hear the clip yourself here for the next 7 days - try around the 1:22:10 mark - and you can also read an extract from Joseph's book here!
Yep I was - and still am - pretty flabbergasted about this, maybe its just me as not being part of the smart phone/twitter generation, I'm not used to this instant interaction but hey I'm impressed, thank you Simon Mayo and BBC and I reckon the least I can do is buy Joseph's book now!

One of our 2012 photos of the Sainte-Marie among the Huron site
Some chap drafting an email to the Simon Mayo show in Jesuit times!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Remembrance Days

Well with Remembrance Sunday today and the armistice anniversary tomorrow, I like the nation have been in a rather reflective mood so dug out Accent UK's very first anthology book from back in early 2003 after our first meeting in a former cotton mill in Stockport, appropriately enough on armistice day, November 2002.
The book itself is long since out of print and I've had to scan the pages from my contribution from my file copy so apologies for the quality reproduced here. It was an interesting time for all of us involved born out of the very early comic shows in Bristol, although sadly there seems to be only Dave West and I left from the contributors list, still involved in the British indie comics scene today?
For more information on Remembrance Day and the Poppy appeal, see the British Legion.   

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Comiket Moments

The Quiet Comiket Accent UK table
Well that was a little disappointing, we made the long way down to London last weekend for the twice yearly Comiket Comic Fair show as part of the ongoing Comica Festival and well it was slow, very slow making for a long day, made worse by various train delays on the return journey meaning that I didn't get home till well past midnight,when of course I turn into a pumpkin - not recommended at Hallowe'en time!

The quiet hall
On the upside we met up with Gary Crutchley, stalwart artist on Accent UK's WesternNoir series, on arrival at Euston who joined us at the show. Its always good fun catching up with Gary and his infectious enthusiasm for comics in general and the WesternNoir series in particular and, with Dave, I was delighted to see a preview of Book 4's art which is almost complete and promises some real surprises. Book 3 has just had another great review here and Book 4 should be ready to make its splash around March next year when the new convention season gets underway, until then sorry you'll have to wait!

Gary Crutchley & Dave West pass the time (Add your own caption HERE!)
Back to Comica and this was the second show at Central St Martins College just behind Kings Cross Station London following the one back in April where although there was clearly some signage problems that show was a resounding success, being our best ever showing at Comiket. We therefore had high hopes for this one and despite again having signage problems and a change in the interior layout we weren't unduly worried by the slow start as things had picked up last time, however the 'kick' never came and things remained very slow throughout the long day to its 7pm finish. In the end we sold less than 1/2 what we had in April and although covering table costs we were well short of covering our travel costs down.

The live drawing parade with Takayo Akiyama

Everyone we talked to had a similar slow day but it was difficult to pinpoint why as the show had its usual talented guests bravely undertaking the on stage live drawing parade and eclectic mix of exhibitors but despite being free to enter it didn't have the attendance we'd experienced last time. Maybe a lot of students hadn't returned from half-term (do College students get 'half-term'?) or maybe it was a wider comic show fatigue, certainly the calendar is far more crowded than ever before and much of the exhibitor's talk was about the recent success of both The Lakes and last weekend's London MCM show where apparently 88,000 folk attended!

Whatever the spectre of other shows, Comiket remains unique in its eclectic mix, celebration and optimism of the comics medium and is a really friendly show with a pretty decent soundtrack too, so we really hope this was a one-off blip. In any case there were exciting plans announced for 2014 with Comiket's Spring outing likely moving to May or June to coincide with a new exhibition of British Comic Art which Paul Gravett (and I think John Dunning) are curating at the British Library with it planned that the Comic fair will also take place at the library!!
The full Joe Sacco Great War panoramic 'tapestry' at full length!
That exciting news and the great time we had in catching up with many good friends and familiar faces of the UK comic scene - including the recently returned world traveller and friend of Accent UK Cliodhna Lyons (and a host of others that there isn't enough room to cover), that and as always the glimpse of one or two potential interesting new projects, made the trip to London and Comica worthwhile - phew!

Unfortunately Blurry Col, Cliodhna & Dave